© Reuters. A police officer escorts one of five suspects, suspected of posting and distributing seditious material, to Hong Kong, China on July 22, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
By Donny Kwok
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested five people on suspicion of plotting to publish “seditious material” with the aim of inciting children to public hatred of the ruled city government by China.
Those arrested were members of a speech-language pathologist’s union that produced children’s books with wolves and sheep as story characters, who may have alluded to events in Hong Kong since the start of the pro-peace protests. democracy in 2019, media reported.
Reuters could not independently confirm the details.
Police said they were two men and three women, aged 25 to 28. They did not identify them.
“The public must be aware of the facts and must not condone or glorify violence, let alone the next generation being enticed by false and distorted information and going astray,” police said in a statement.
The five men were arrested under a colonial-era law aimed at sedition, which had rarely been used before anti-government protests began in the former British colony.
The first convictions under the law can carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison, police said.
The arrests were the latest involving alleged critics of the Hong Kong government who raised fears the space for dissent has narrowed since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in June last year for end pro-democracy protests.
Those arrested belong to the General Union of Speech-Language Pathologists of Hong Kong, state broadcaster RTHK reported. The union could not be reached for comment.
Police confirmed the suspects were union members but did not give further details.
Authorities have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong – which returned to China in 1997 on a “one country, two systems” formula aimed at preserving its freedoms and its role as a financial hub – but say national security of China is a red line.
Security officials have said law enforcement actions are evidence-based and have nothing to do with an individual’s political position, background or profession.
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